Minister of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services Jenfan Muswere is officiating at the International Day for Universal Access to Information commemorations being held in Harare.
The Day was initially designated by UNESCO in 2015 and later proclaimed at the 74th UN General Assembly in 2019.
Universal Access to Information entails that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information.
The 2023 commemorations are being held under the theme “The importance of the online space for access to information.”
Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interests of public accountability.
For years, Zimbabwe’s media environment has been among the most restrictive in the world, although there have been limited openings following the formation of a government of national unity in February 2009.
A range of laws restrict media freedom, and laws concerning licensing and ownership are a key method of exerting government dominance over the media sector.
Despite repeated calls for reform, the broadcast sector remains under complete state control.
The government-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) runs all locally based radio and television stations, and these outlets are subject to considerable political interference and censorship, displaying a clear bias toward the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.
While a number of private print outlets do operate, and several additional newspaper licenses were granted in 2010, licensing of both the print media sector as well as of individual journalists remains governed by stringent laws.
Apparently, most of the so-called private media are reportedly run by people or organizations connected to the state or ruling party.
This undermines their independence.
While their reach is limited, short-wave foreign-based radio stations (many run by Zimbabwean exiles), international news channels available via satellite, and internet-based publications, news portals, and blogs do provide a small measure of independent news and opinion.
Despite constitutional provisions for freedom of expression, most aspects of the legal framework are equally restrictive regarding media freedom, and have not yet been reformed despite promises by the new government to do so.